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Motorcycle Riding: Rules Of The Road

With the arrival of warmer weather comes the sound of motorcycle engines revving and raring to go. It’s understandable that those who love to ride will be chomping at the bit to get out on the open road, alone or with their like-minded friends, so a little reminder about the rules of the road is probably in order.

Riding In The Time Of COVID-19

I would be remiss if I didn’t address this right up front: Group gatherings of more than 5 people aren’t permitted right now, and that applies to groups of riders too.

Social distancing rules aside, there is also the fact that a crash would add a lot of stress to an already taxed health care system.

Even if you’re riding on your own, the reality of being on a motorcycle is that any collision is likely to result in some level of injury. Without the protection of a vehicle, riders are more vulnerable.

Whether or not your trip is necessary is an important factor, as it would be before someone gets behind the wheel of a car. It’s just not the time to take on the cross province trip you’ve been planning all winter.

The Motorcycle Confederation of Canada has launched the “Safe At Home” initiative, and it is encouraging you to park your ride for the time being, to avoid any accidents that would burden the system more than it already is.

Before You Even Sit On A Motorcycle

If you are going to use your motorcycle to run errands or commute, but it’s been a few months since it has been out of the garage, there are a few steps you should take to make sure you remain safe.

  • Even before you gear up and head out on the road, you need to double check that your insurance is in order. Even a ‘quick spin’ around the block can end up in disaster and never more so if you’re not probably covered by your insurance policy. If you’re riding with someone, make sure their insurance is up to date. If there is an accident, you as the ‘passenger’ might find yourself short on coverage otherwise.
  • Look over your bike to make sure it is in good condition and no repairs are needed. In particular, check the tire pressure and the treads, as wet spring roads can easily lead to accidents.
  • Check over your protective equipment: leathers, helmet, gloves, to make sure everything is in good repair. Without the benefit of a car frame around you, you need to do everything you can to make sure you are protected or even a small collision can result in a lot of physical damage. The insurance company also won’t look favourably on your claim if you’re out riding in shorts and a t-shirt. You won’t have done everything possible to mitigate the possibility and severity of injuries and that will count against you.
  • Check the weather. Wet roads and heavy crosswinds can be hard for even a seasoned rider to manage, and particularly if you’re out of practice. Take it easy for your first few times out in the season to make sure that you’re feeling okay on the bike. If you’re new to being a biker, you might want to practice in a wet, empty parking lot. Even at slower speeds, breaking, turning and starting all feel a little different on wet pavement.

A Few ‘On The Road’ Reminders

An evening ride in the warm spring air sounds like heaven for people who enjoy motorcycling but keep in mind that long shadows make it hard for cars to see you. You need to up your vigilance of cars around you, particularly in the early morning or at sunset.

Also, resist the temptation to avoid traffic by driving between lanes of stopped vehicles. This is called lane filtering and while it’s not technically legal, it’s not on the books as illegal either. That said, a lot of drivers aren’t prepared or don’t expect bikers to suddenly appear between them and might not be looking for you as they look to change lanes to exit a crowded roadway.

If you decide that you do want to ride in a group, you should consider the following points:

  • Chat before you ride: make sure everyone in the group is on the same page in terms of riding formation, where you’ll stop along the road, who is going to lead / pace and who the weakest rider in the group is. The ride should be tailored for that person, to make sure it’s the safest it can be.
  • Make sure you pass other vehicles one at a time and regain your formation once you’ve safely returned to your lane. You should also use single file formation for on/off ramps, curves or turns.
  • Plan for breaks: particularly if you haven’t been out on the road for a while, it can be tiring to maintain formation and certainly requires more awareness of the other riders than if you were riding alone.

If You Are In An Accident On A Motorcycle

As always, there are certain steps to take when you’re in a collision, but there are one or two that are even more important if you were riding a motorcycle at the time of the accident:

  1. Call first responders. Unless it was a near miss or a clipping, the odds are good that you and / or your passenger has sustained some level of injury. Some injuries—concussion for example—won’t be immediately clear and the shock of the accident will have you running on adrenaline for a little while, which could mask other injuries.
  2. Get the information for the other vehicle, including insurance, witness information and, if you or someone else can, take pictures of the scene.
  3. If you don’t go to the hospital, see your family doctor as soon as possible. You want to make sure that there is an ongoing record of your medical status.
  4. Call a personal injury lawyer. Getting them involved from the get go, even if you end up recovering just fine, is a good idea. It ensures that your file is properly documented every step of the way so that if it turns out that your injuries are more serious than you originally thought, you have a solid recourse to follow.

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